PORTSMOUTH, Va. — After its initial opening was delayed to give staff more time to test equipment and prepare, Rivers Casino Portsmouth opened its doors to the public Monday morning.
The $340 million facility brought in over 1,000 new jobs to the area, and it will also bring in an estimated $16.3 million for the city of Portsmouth annually.
With the new jobs and revenue, it has also brought a renewed sense of excitement -- it's the first gaming facility of its kind in the Commonwealth.
'The city needs it': Portsmouth community, leaders react to grand opening
The line outside of Rivers Casino Portsmouth started as early as 7 a.m. on Monday. The first person in line was retired Portsmouth firefighter Garland Alexander.
"It's a lifeline for this city," Alexander said, as he stood right in front of the glass doors, eager to see the excitement.
Alexander said he was less focused on the gambling aspect and more focused on how the new venue would help put more money in pockets of workers in Portsmouth.
"The tolls are going on and causing economic hardships on the city...tax revenue is very important," he continued.
"They need it. The city needs it. This is a good thing for the city of Portsmouth -- a good thing for the area."
Leaders with the city of Portsmouth and managers with the casino put in all the stops to make the grand opening a big celebration. They brought in entertainers, the NSU marching band, and special guests to keep the atmosphere vibrant.
Barbara Harper from Norfolk was second in line. She waited out in the chilly weather to try her luck.
"I'm going to hit the machines," Harper said while waiting in line.
"I'm excited! I don't need anybody to energize me. I am keeping myself happy, can't you tell?"
People walking out of the casino after trying their luck on some slot machines or waiting in line at restaurants say they came as far as Upstate New York.
By the numbers, General Manager Roy Corby said the business includes 1,448 slot machines, 57 tables, 24 poker tables and several restaurants and bars.
At the center of it all is the biggest sportsbook in the state, Corby continued.
The casino was set to open on January 15 and have its charity nights on January 10 and 12.
Instead, it had its charity nights on January 19 and 21. Proceeds for those nights went to local organizations Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, USO Hampton Roads and Central Virginia and Wesley Community Service Center.
Mayor Shannon Glover of Portsmouth called it all a "dream come true."
"This place is everything we thought it would be and more," he said. "It can continue to attract folks to come to our city and see everything we have to offer."
You can check out the soon-to-be bustling Victory Boulevard yourself for all the fun, and you can also read more about the Rivers Casino national chain through a feature piece by our very own David Alan by clicking here.